The Chechen jihadist fighter has achieved near-legendary status in the last decade-plus. “Chechen” has become synonymous with “militarily competent jihadist.” Any time coalition forces have met jihadists on the battlefield who maneuver and shoot well, they are presumed to be Chechens. In 2005, the effective insurgent snipers in Iraq were all presumed to be Chechens.
Yet, for all this mythologizing (unless the sniper was caught, there was nothing but rumors that the shooters were Chechens), it is indisputable that the Chechen jihad has made its mark on the jihad as a whole, particularly the Sunni Salafist jihad. The most visible representative of this fact at the moment is Abu Omar al Shishani, one of Daash’s field commanders.
Born Tarkhan Batirashvili, al Shishani rose to prominence in the Syrian Civil War, appearing in multiple Daash videos fighting the Assad regime, as well as other, rival rebel groups. Reported killed at least three times in the last year, he keeps surviving and resurfacing, most recently in Anbar, and Rudaw is now reporting that he is being moved to head the assault on Kobani.
Al Shishani did not see his first combat in Syria, however. Born in the Pankisi Gorge, he joined the Georgian Army and served in a reconnaissance unit in the Russo-Georgian war in 2008. His former commander said he was quite proficient in the field, and he was promoted to sergeant before being medically mustered out in 2010 for tuberculosis.